teen swimmer with coach | Protect Persons anti-doping

Our International Sports Law Attorneys Discuss WADC Sanctions for Violations Involving Protected Persons

Athletes who wish to compete in major competitions like the Olympics must comply with the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) World Anti-Doping Code (WADC).

The international anti-doping rule violation lawyers from Global Sports Advocates help athletes accused of violating the WADC protect their professional reputation and ability to compete in the sport they love. Here, they explain who is considered a Protected Person under the WADC and how such a designation affects the potential sanctions they may receive for an anti-doping rule violation.

Who Is Considered a Protected Person?

Under the WADC, a Protected Person is an athlete who falls into one of three categories at the time of their anti-doping rule violation:

  • The athlete is under 16.
  • The athlete is between the ages of 16 and 18 and is not included in any Registered Testing Pool and has never competed in any international event in an open category. (This does not include competition that is limited to junior or age group categories.)
  • The athlete is 18 or older but has been determined to lack the legal capacity for reasons other than age. (For example, a Paralympic athlete with an intellectual impairment may be considered a Protected Person due to a documented lack of legal capacity.)

How Does Being Classified as a Protected Person Affect an Athlete’s Sanctions for Anti-Doping Rule Violations?

The WADC sets periods of ineligibility for anti-doping rule violations based on the type of violation committed, the type of athlete who committed the violation, and the athlete’s degree of fault. The World Anti-Doping Code is available as a PDF download on the WADA website.

Protected Persons, given their presumed inexperience and lack of sophistication, are typically given more lenient sanctions under the WADC for their anti-doping rule violations. For example, in cases involving evading, refusing or failing to submit to sample collection (Article 2.3) or tampering/attempted tampering (Article 2.5), the period of ineligibility for a Protected Person is set between a maximum of two years and a minimum of a reprimand, whereas for non-Protected Persons, the period of ineligibility range is between at maximum, four years and at minimum, two years.

However, a more lenient sanction is not always guaranteed. For example, if a Protected Person tests positive (Article 2.1), uses (Article 2.2), or possesses (Article 2.6) a non-Specified Substance (excluding Substances of Abuse), they must first establish they bear No Significant Fault or Negligence before their sanction range can be reduced to 0 – 24 months (in comparison, under identical circumstances, the lowest a non-Protected Person can receive if they can establish No Significant Fault or Negligence is one year). If a Protected Person fails to prove they bear No Significant Fault or Negligence, then they face the same sanction applied to non-Protected Persons, i.e., a four-year ban.

Additionally, mandatory public disclosures required in Article 14.3.2 can be waived at the anti-doping organization’s discretion when an athlete is considered a Protected Person. If an anti-doping organization chooses to disclose a Protected Person’s anti-doping rule violation, such disclosure must be made in a way that is proportionate to the facts and circumstances of the case.

What Happens When Athlete Support Personnel Commit Violations Involving Protected Persons?

The Protected Person classification acknowledges that certain groups of athletes lack the ability to fully understand WADC rules and the consequences of their actions. In addition to reducing the sanctions for Protected Persons who committed anti-doping rule violations, the WADC also increases sanctions for athlete support personnel such as coaches, trainers, and managers who encourage a Protected Person to engage in behavior that violates anti-doping rules.

An Article 2.7 (Trafficking or Attempted Trafficking in any Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method by an Athlete or Other Person) or Article 2.8 (Administration or Attempted Administration by an Athlete Support Personnel to any Athlete of any Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method) violation involving a Protected Person and non-Specified Substances will result in lifetime ineligibility for athlete support personnel. When the violation does not involve a Protected Person, the maximum period of ineligibility is four years.